We have a new video showing people what NarraFirma is like to use. It’s me (Cynthia) taking you through some screenshots and talking about why you’d want to do each thing the software supports. Enjoy :)
Release 1.0.1 is a minor version with a small bug fix (the navigation bar had been accidentally made to scroll with the page). The release also updates the banner and screen shots in the WordPress plugin directory.
Release 1.0.2 adds eleven more customizable texts to the story form. It should now be possible to present a survey with participants seeing no English text at all. That was my goal before, but I missed some texts on buttons and error messages. Thank you to the user who pointed out the still-only-English texts!
In 1.0.2 I also added a “Notes” field to each question, for times when you want to remember why you chose a particular question or why you worded it in a that way. (Because I wanted to do that and couldn’t.)
If you have an existing NarraFirma installation and need help upgrading it to the new version, check our installation page for instructions.
I (Cynthia Kurtz) am pleased to announce version 1.0.0 of NarraFirma. The software now looks better and works better. I have been working on it for about four months, adding functionality, fixing bugs, and tweaking lots of little things.
These are the main changes in NarraFirma 1.0.0 (in the order in which I happened to think of them).
Data integrity. The “Explore Patterns” page in the Catalysis section now includes several “data integrity” graphs, which show overall trends across questions. These include:
- Values for all scale questions together in one graph (to look for systematic biases such as all answers converging to the left or middle or right)
- Means and standard deviations of scale values per participant (to look for patterns such as small ranges within participants, which might mean people were not paying much attention)
- Counts of unanswered choice and scale questions (to look for questions people avoided or didn’t understand)
These new graphs are listed on the “Explore Patterns” page, so you can write observations about them and include them in your catalysis report. (Also note that bar graphs and histograms now have number labels above each bar.)
Qualitative observations. The answers to free-text questions are now included in the “Explore Patterns” page. You can look at all the answers in one place (sorted alphabetically, with duplicates marked), and you can write observations and interpretations based on them.
You do have to copy and paste texts into your observations. This may seem like a cop-out, but I did it on purpose. I played with different options for creating observations based on text answers, such as clicking on check boxes, reviewing texts in tables, and so on. In the end I decided that simple copy and paste gives users the most flexibility. You might want to include only part of what somebody wrote, or you might want to embed what somebody wrote in your own explanatory text about it. This option shows you what people wrote and gives you the ability to review it and use what you need from it. That’s all you need.
Multiple scatterplots. The “Explore Patterns” page now includes scale+scale+choice question combinations. This was something we had on the list to do in the earlier version but ran out of time for.
A few other things to note with respect to these graphs:
- Scatterplots can now (optionally) show correlation lines.
- Statistical displays have been made both smaller and more informative. For example, all graphs now show the count of stories on which the question was not answered.
- Because this scale+scale+choice addition means there could now be hundreds of scatterplots generated, I added a progress bar (with cancel button) when more than 200 statistical results are being generated for the patterns table. This prevents people having to look at a blank screen while the page calculates its content.
Custom CSS. You can now style the HTML content of your survey (on-line and printed), story cards, and catalysis report. Nearly every element of these generated pages has a class whose style you can change.
NarraFirma’s survey system is still far less sophisticated than that of most surveying packages (there is still no built-in “other” field for choice questions, and no question piping), but at least now you can make your survey page look a lot better. Also note that in the survey itself, users can now see the numerical value of each slider as they drag the button (though if you don’t like this you can use CSS to hide the new number value). They can also click on the number to change it in a popup dialog. I also made the survey image field function (it was an oversight that this field never worked).
More catalysis options. There are now more options for drawing graphs and for building a catalysis report, including:
- choosing which graph types to see at any time (a big plus for times when thousands of graphs can be generated)
- setting dot size, opacity, and correlation lines on scatter plots; numbers of bins on histograms (these choices are especially useful if you imported your data from elsewhere)
- showing interpretations in the patterns list (for times when you wrote an interpretation but can’t remember what observation it was attached to)
- more user-supplied sections in the catalysis report: introduction, “about this report”, table-of-contents headers, labels for report parts, conclusion, custom CSS
- better support for HTML in texts for observations, interpretations, perspectives, and ideas (and ideas now print in the report)
- the default catalysis report (without writing any custom CSS) now looks a lot better (I think)
Please note: If you have a catalysis report created with a version of NarraFirma prior to version 1.0.0, and it contains interpretations with ideas in them, the ideas will not print with your catalysis report in NF >= 1.0.0 until you go to the “Cluster interpretations” page and click “Start or update clustering diagram.” (This is the only backward incompatibility issue in this version release. Few people should be affected by it, and it’s easily fixed.)
Improved colors. NarraFirma’s color scheme has been improved and simplified. (I don’t know about you, but I gradually lost my patience with the color of green I thought was energetic two years ago. These new colors are more subdued, possibly more professional, and at very least less irritating.) I also replaced the home page “PNI diagram” image map with something that I think is easier to understand. I removed the most annoying parts of the visual look of NarraFirma (at least to me) – the diagram triangle, the blue gradients, the rounded rectangles. I think the software looks more confident and “grown up” now. (Hopefully you do too.) Also notice the new “Choose another project” link, which means you can switch projects without logging out.
More testing. I spent several weeks on additional testing, in two ways. First, I created some new fake projects and ran through them, looking for problems to pop up (and they did, and I fixed them). Second, I converted and imported data from several old projects. In these I compared NarraFirma’s graphs and statistics to those generated using other software (and fixed more little bugs). Here is an example of a large (pre-NarraFirma) data set I imported for stress testing.
Note that I also tested several data sets created or imported within the past two years, and I can report that your updated copy of NarraFirma should not have any problems reading data you created in it (or imported into it) within the past two years. I did add some new fields, but they are optional and have defaults. No existing data formats have been changed. (The one exception, ideas on clustered interpretations, is explained above.)
Better importing. While importing old data sets I gave the data import function a good workout. As a result I added more import options, better error checking and reporting, and a much better explanation of how the import system works. Shown here are an example error report, a CSV story form with new “form” options, and (the start of) one of the import help pages.
Auto-created story forms. One of the irritating things about building a story form in NarraFirma was that you had to write your questions, then place them one by one into a story form. I’d had about enough of that, so I added a button that generates a new form based on the questions you’ve written.
Better story cards. You can now choose which questions to include on your story cards. You can also customize how ranges are drawn and control all aspects of the cards with custom CSS. In this example I used color and spacing to create cards on which differences will stand out from further away. This can be helpful during a sensemaking session.
Observation strengths. You can now set a strength value on each observation as you write it and use these to sort your observations. This will be a big help during the stage of catalysis when you stop looking at every pattern and start whittling down your observations to what you have time to explore in detail.
Number of stories told. There is now an auto-generated field in each story collection that counts how many stories each participant told.
- In a NarraFirma web survey (or data entry form), this depends on people clicking the “Yes, I’d like to tell another story” button (so the count is how many stories people told per session, not necessarily per individual).
- In an imported file, the column titled “Participant ID” determines how stories are grouped by participant.
In either case, the story count per person is handled as though it was a question, and NarraFirma generates graphs showing it in relation to other questions. If everyone told one story, you can ignore this generated question. However, in cases where people had the option of telling any number of stories, you can sometimes see useful patterns in how voluble people wanted to be.
I considered doing the same thing with story length, but decided not to, for two reasons. First, I’ve looked at story length on several projects and have never found any useful patterns in it. Whether somebody talks or writes for longer doesn’t seem to mean much. Second, it’s impossible to set categories for story length when all the stories haven’t yet been collected, and I didn’t want to introduce a graph whose meaning kept changing. Besides, if anyone really wants to look at story length, they can use the annotation system to add such a question and fill in the values by hand.
Side note: I found a bug in the chi-squared statistical test which was leading to too few test results being shown (and too many “count below threshold” messages showing instead). You will see more p-values in your “table” graphs now.
Better admin page. I cleaned up the way-too-nerdy page for creating projects and users in the node.js version. (The WordPress version admin page is unchanged.)
Observation sections. A user asked about adding the ability to write more than one observation per graph. I didn’t want to clutter up the most complicated page in the application even more, so instead I added a function that is hidden from view. If you segment an observation using tags such as @first@ and @second@, you can then refer to those sections in your interpretations. In your report, the observation under each interpretation will show only the section of the observation you referred to.
I also fixed a bug where changes to interpretations made after the clustering diagram was created did not appear in the printed catalysis report.
Fully configurable survey fields. You can now enter your own texts for every part of your story form. There are no longer any hard-coded texts, like “Please enter your story here.”
That’s it. There were also many little bug fixes and tweaks to how things look. We hope this new version will be even more useful than the last. Please send feedback and ideas.
Last thing: If you have an existing NarraFirma installation and need help upgrading it to the new version, check our installation page for instructions.
This is a “prettifying” release. The lists of pages on project phase pages (like Planning, Collection, etc) are now separated into groups with headings. This should help to avoid the “there are so many pages here” problem in Planning and Collection. Also, all of those page links now have popup hints (hover over the page link) so people can remember what the pages are about.
Also, exports of the story form, story cards, and catalysis report have been cleaned up and made nicer looking.
This release contains three major changes.
- Most importantly, the release has a fix for a bug that caused data entered (in a survey or during data entry) to be garbled for questions with multiple checkboxes. Instead of saving an array, NarraFirma attempted to save a text string. That meant that data for those questions was lost. Sorry :( This did not impact data imported from CSV.
- The release adds functionality to support a “Does not apply” non-answer for sliders (scales). Now there is a check box under the slider, which starts out checked. When the user grabs the slider button and drags it, the box gets unchecked. To remove their slider value, they can check the box again. What it says on the box can be configured by adding a third line to the slider options. Some reasonable choices are “I don’t know” and “Not sure” and “It’s not important to this story”.
- There are also some improvements to usability and appearance in the “Review incoming stories” and “Explore patterns” screens.
We are proud to announce the initial beta release of NarraFirma, a web application for participatory narrative inquiry (PNI). My husband Paul and I have been working on the software since August of 2014. NarraFirma is still not done – not the way we’d like it to be done – but it’s time to tell the world about it.
Why did we build NarraFirma? Because readers of my book told me they wanted it. I spoke to many people who wanted to get started with PNI and weren’t satisfied with the tools available to them. Also, many people told me that while there were tools they could use, there was still a chasm between reading about doing PNI and doing PNI.
So my husband and I created NarraFirma to address those issues. First, NarraFirma is an integrated tool set for participatory narrative inquiry. You don’t need to cobble together something that works from three or four separate tools designed for separate tasks. NarraFirma is PNI in a box.
Secondly, the NarraFirma box has a little bit of me in it. I designed NarraFirma to give you lots of help as you work your way through a PNI project. As you make plans, it asks you questions. As you make choices, it gives you recommendations. As you carry out your plans, it nudges you to keep careful notes. I believe that this support will help people to succeed in getting the most out of PNI, especially as they carry out their first PNI projects.
Does NarraFirma have limitations? Yes, plenty. Because it’s integrated, it lacks some of the depth of applications that support only one part of a PNI project. For example, you can make more complicated surveys with SurveyMonkey, and you can make more complicated graphs with Tableau. But with NarraFirma you don’t have to learn extra stuff you don’t need. Also, NarraFirma is in its infancy. In time, with luck and support, we hope to add more functionality so that it can meet a wider variety of needs.
If you like NarraFirma (or just the idea of NarraFirma), please tell other people about it; consider donating via PayPal to support NarraFirma development; and think about using NarraFirma for your next PNI project.